Race, Economics, and the Politics of Educational Change
The Dynamics of School District Consolidation in Shelby County, Tennessee
The 2010 national midterm elections produced Republican majorities in Tennessee for the first time since Reconstruction. In the wake of that election, leaders of the Shelby County Schools (SCS) school district began legislative maneuvering to advance a long-cherished goal: granting their schools “special school district” status—a move that would permanently sever the relationship between the SCS and the other school district in the county, Memphis City Schools (MCS). Leaders of MCS realized this action would deprive it of funding from a significant part of the county’s tax base. So they made a stunning move of their own: they renounced the MCS charter. Ironically, under Tennessee law this action required SCS to take over the running of Memphis’s schools; SCS would actually be forced to merge with MCS. Thus began the largest school district consolidation in the history of the United States.
Race, Economics, and the Politics of Educational Change progresses through nine chapters that examine the MCS/SCS merger from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Historical, sociological, political, legal, institutional, urban planning, media studies, and educational analyses of the consolidation render John M. Amis and Paul M. Wright’s volume a valuable tool for researchers, students, policy-makers and educators alike. The investigations in this work reveal deeply entrenched inequalities that have thwarted education, particularly for poor minority students, throughout the region’s history. This text presents insight into factors that have shaped not just the school system in Shelby County, but similar systems across the United States. A model for other urban areas that face similar challenges, this volume will serve as a significant resource for those seeking to understand the trajectory of large-scale educational transformations.
JOHN M. AMIS is Professor of Strategic Management and Organisation at the University of Edinburgh Business School. His work centers on issues of large-scale organizational and institutional change.
PAUL M. WRIGHT is the Lane/Zimmerman Endowed Professor in the College of Education at Northern Illinois University. He has evaluated and consulted on educational policy and educational reform efforts in the U.S. and abroad.